For Kristle and Molinda
I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about a post a mother left on my Facebook wall. This is what it said:
“Infamous Mothers…I am a brown woman, a mother and I am so angry I can hardly manage. Brown folk are being murdered in the street. Killed by police that are trained only to kill. Murdered by those who continually hide behind the guise of ‘keeping the peace,’ when they themselves terrorize our brown sons and daughters. I am angry and tired and you know how it is when Mama is angry and tired. My spirit is screaming for justice…and I don’t mean just us shot in the street. I mean, justice. Hold the police accountable because people are dead…and more will die. STOP POLICE BRUTALITY!!! Thank you infamous mothers for indulging this mother. I’m sick and tired…I’m grieved, I’m vexed…I’m, I’m, I’m…”
The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile came right in the middle of our Kickstarter campaign. Although I knew this woman was venting and expressing her frustration, I needed to read her words as a call to action. In light of these deaths, my focus shifted. I suspended campaigning for the moment because it was not only unethical to continue but necessary to pause and listen.
HERE IS WHAT I HEARD... Black mothers are hurting. My timeline is flooded with videos of red-eyes and wet faces. Women are uploading images of their chubby-cheeked brown sons. Pictures of boy children are accompanied by the hashtag: #theirlivesmatter. I see photos of serious African American mothers desperately and protectively hugging their little ones. Posts ranging from “I can’t keep calm. My sons are black!” to “I’m ready to kill and be killed” are showing up in my newsfeed. Something is about to happen.
"Pictures of boy children are accompanied by the hashtag: #theirlivesmatter."
WE KNOW FROM HISTORY that a fed-up mother is a force. And don’t let her be infamous. Think Sojourner Truth, Harriet Jacobs, Ida B. Wells… Think Diane Nash, a civil rights activist and strategist who chose imprisonment over putting up bond. She was tired of a system that unjustly locked up black bodies, a system that then required those same bodies “to pay the bill for this humiliation.” So she, along with other protesters, flooded the jails. “I can no longer cooperate with the evil and corrupt court system of this state. Since my child will be a black child, born in Mississippi, whether I am in jail or not he will be born in prison.” At four months pregnant she was sentenced to two years, willingly choosing jail time over paying for a fake freedom. She said, “I believe that if I go to jail now it may hasten that day when my child and all children will be free—not only on the day of their birth but for all of their lives.” Nash only stayed in prison a short time before she was released, but her stance is still relevant today.
Her words then: “We feel that if we pay these fines we would be contributing to and supporting the injustice and immoral practices that have been performed in the arrest and conviction of the defendants." Our words now: “[Infamous mothers, and all of our allies] feel that if we [fill in the blank] we would be contributing to and supporting the [violence and unjust practices] that have [led to the murder of our children].” Our response to this violence begins with whatever goes in that blank. It begins with us strategically challenging an aspect of the system that contributes to the murder of our children. It begins with us making that challenge our policy and naming it. Nash and her allies called their policy jail-without-bail. What will we call ours?
WE ARE NOT POWERLESS. Mothers are a force, especially infamous ones. We have "stormed Caesar's Palace" and much more. We are the bad girls of mothering. And our children are being slaughtered.
We don’t accept that.
Neither should you.
Photo Credit: Chris Charles of Creative Silence Photo+Design
~ ~ ~
Let's Start the Conversation
In the comments section below, please complete the FolloWING Sentence:
We feel that if we continue to [fill in the blank] we will be contributing to and supporting a system that does violence to our sons, daughters, and families. And that is no longer acceptable!